Forensic psychologists provide psychological expertise in the courtroom by determining if a defendant is competent to stand trial, mentally stable, and what level of risk the defendant may pose.
They also work side-by-side with detectives in criminal investigations, evaluating suspects and victims using psychological tests that analyze both the perpetrator’s and victims mental state before and after crimes have occurred. This puts them in the position to be a unique and respected voice in the courtroom.
One nationally-renown forensic psychologist from Arizona is Erin Spiers, who was featured in a 2015 article in the East Valley Tribune. Erin began her career in forensic psychology by earning a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate in psychology from Arizona State University. Afterward, she went on to work with the mentally ill at the psychiatric ward at Charity Hospital in Maricopa, and later as a psychologist for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. With over 15 years of experience, Erin has had the opportunity to work on forensic teams that evaluated cases such as the Columbine High School massacre, the Kobe Bryant rape case, and the Baseline Killer case in Phoenix.
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Arizona
As a forensic psychologist, you would be charged with the duty of being unequivocally truthful—whether the defendant or the prosecutor retains you for your services.
Forensic psychologists are licensed clinical psychologist who have specialty training and education in forensic settings, so to become a forensic psychologist, you will first need to become licensed as a clinical psychologist with the Arizona Board of Examiners in Psychology.
For step-by-step guidance on how to become a licensed forensic psychologist in Arizona, follow these steps:
Step 1. Meet Education Requirements for Licensure in Arizona
To become a licensed forensic psychologist in Arizona, you will need to earn a doctorate degree in clinical psychology. But, to do that, you will first need to start by earning a bachelor’s degree from an Arizona college.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Degree programs in this field include, but are not limited to:
- Bachelor of Science in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts in Psychology – Forensic Psychology
The forensic psychology degree program generally consists of:
- General Education
- Major Courses
- Forensic Psychology Concentration
Psychology major courses will include foundational courses, such as:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Social Psychology
Afterward, forensic psychology concentration courses will include courses such as:
- Social Psychology
- Counseling Process and Techniques
- Criminal Psychology
Once you complete your bachelor’s degree, you will be able to enroll in a doctorate degree in forensic psychology, since most doctorate degrees include both master’s and doctorate-level courses.
Doctorate Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Many of these programs are highly competitive, so to enroll, you will need to submit outstanding application materials such as:
- GRE scores
- Undergraduate transcripts
- Statement of purpose
You can enroll in one of Arizona’s four APA-accredited clinical psychology programs. Forensic psychology degrees include, but are not limited to, degree titles such as:
- D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- Clinial Psy.D. with concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D./J.D. Clinical Psychology and Law
- D. in Clinical Psychology with Forensic Specialization
The Arizona Board requires that your education include courses on the following topics:
- Scientific and Professional Ethics and Standards in Psychology
- Research Methods and Statistics
- Biological Basis for Behavior
- Cognitive-Affective Basis of Behavior
- The Social Basis of Behavior
- Individual Differences
- Treatment Modalities
Along with this, your forensic specialization will include courses and requirements such as:
- Introduction to Forensics
- Introduction to Forensic Psychology
- Forensic Assessment and Prediction
- Internship in Forensic Training
- Dissertation on Forensic Topic
If you choose to enroll in a joint psychology-law program, your program will consists of:
- D. Courses – 60 credits
- D. Requirements – 60 credits
- Joint Requirements – 30 credits
Finally, forensic psychology programs offer particular areas of focus, including, but not limited to:
- Juvenile and family court
- Sexual violence assessment and treatment
- Child maltreatment
- Intimate partner violence
- High conflict families
- Divorce mediation
- Parent coordination
Step 2. Completing 1500 Hours of Supervised Internship Experience
Next, you must enroll in and complete an APA-approved internship, in which at least 50% of the internship hours are spent in direct psychological service-related activities.
As an aspiring forensic psychologist, at least one of your internship credits must be conducted in a forensic setting.
APA-accredited internship institutions throughout Arizona include:
- Southern Arizona Psychology Internship Center – Tucson
- Arizona State University – Tempe
- University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson
- Phoenix VA Health Care System – Phoenix
- Southern Arizona VA Health Care System – Tucson
- Arizona State Hospital – Phoenix
- Phoenix Children’s Hospital: Department of Behavioral Medicine – Phoenix
Step 3. Applying for Examination and Licensure in Arizona
Next, you must apply to the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners to sit for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and for your Arizona clinical psychologist license.
The application for your exam and license is one in the same. So, to apply for the exam and your psychologist license, submit:
- The Arizona Application for Licensure and/or Examination
- A $350 application fee (or $200 temporary license fee) made out to the Board of Psychologist Examiners
- Supervised Internship or Training Experience Verification form (must be sent directly to Board from training administrator)
- Verifications of all previously held psychology licenses (must be sent from state board)
- Mandatory Confidential Information form
- Official transcripts from all graduate institutions (must be sent directly to Board from university)
- Reference forms
- Self-query from National Practitioner Data Bank
- Copy of passport, birth certificate, or other acceptable documentation
Once the Board approves you for examination, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) will email you an application packet to review, correct, and verify.
Step 4. Pass the Arizona Clinical Psychology License Examination
After receiving your acceptance email, you will register with Pearson VUE to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
This exam will cover specific content areas that correlate to Arizona’s education requirements, including:
- Biological Bases of Behavior
- Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior
- Social and Cultural Bases of Behavior
- Growth and Lifespan Development
- Assessment and Diagnosis
- Treatment, Intervention, and Supervision
- Research Methods and Statistics
Before taking the exam, first read the EPPP Candidate Handbook, which outlines:
- Test Scheduling
- Taking the Exam
- Receiving Exam Results
- Retaking the Exam
When you schedule the exam, you will be able to choose to take it at Pearson VUE centers located in these cities in and near Arizona:
- Las Vegas
Step 5. Begin a Forensic Psychology Career in Arizona
With a doctorate in forensic psychology and an Arizona state-issued license, you will be prepared for jobs in child welfare agencies, jails, correctional facilities, courts, state police departments, state departments of corrections, and more.
For example, forensic psychologists are prepared for jobs such as these:
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Forensic Clinician
- Supervising Psychology
- Forensic Psychologist
- Assessment Psychologist
- Alternative to Incarceration Psychologist
A survey of job vacancies for forensic psychologists in Arizona in July 2015 produced the following example (Job listing is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute a job offer):
- Psychologist for Corizon in Florence – Corizon Health is part of a healthcare team at Eyman Correctional Complex in Florence, AZ. Applicants to positions such as these should hold a doctoral degree from an accredited university, hold an Arizona state license, and have one year of experience providing clinical services.
Responsibilities for this position include conducting psychological evaluations and consultations, administering psychometric testing, conducting psychotherapeutic intervention, providing mental health services for inmates, directing the interdisciplinary treatment team, and more.
Step 6. Renew Your License Every Two Years
The Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners indicates that licenses must be renewed every two years, expiring on April 30th of odd-numbered years.
You must complete 60 credits of continuing education during every two-year licensing period in order to renew their license.
Forty hours of continuing education must come from:
- Post-doctoral study sponsored by an accredited university (can include courses, certificates, seminars, workshops, home study, and more)
- Attending an Arizona Board meeting
- Serving as a complaint consultant
The remaining twenty hours can come from the first category, or they may be achieved through:
- Self-study or study groups for professional growth
- Preparation that results in publication
- Presentation at a symposium (can be state, regional, national, or international symposium)
- Attendance or participation in a case conference
- A course, workshop, seminar, or symposium for professional growth
Arizona’s APA-approved sponsors of continuing education include, but are not limited to:
- Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners
- Arizona Psychological Association
- Southern Arizona Psychological Association
- American Psychological Association
- American Academy of Forensic Psychology
- American College of Forensic Psychology
- International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
- International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals
- Midwestern University Clinical Psychology Program
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Arizona
As the demand for forensic psychologists continues to grow in Arizona, these specialized professionals can expect to see a wider range of job opportunities in the state. The United States Department of Labor expects that between 2012 and 2022 the number of forensic psychologists employed in Arizona will increase by 15%, which is 4% greater than the national average.
Business Insider published an article in 2011 naming forensic psychologists among the top five highest-paid professionals with psychology degrees. The article also reported that the greatest demand for forensic psychologists was with federal prisons and federal law enforcement agencies, where the average annual salary was $85,000 that year.
In 2014, the federal government found that forensic psychologists working in Arizona earned an average annual salary of $61,710.
Forensic Psychology Salary Ranges in Arizona
When the United States Department of Labor conducted its 2014 salary survey, it discovered a direct link between a forensic psychologist’s earning potential and their level of experience. As such, aspiring forensic psychologists in Arizona are encouraged to gain hands-on experience through internships and volunteer positions while completing their formal education.
Forensic psychologists are often paid on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, it is important that they learn to deliver successful testimonies in a courtroom setting over the course of several years in order to develop an impeccable reputation. In 2014, the most experienced forensic psychologist were found to earn more than twice that of those just starting out:
- Entry-Level: $36,400
- Mid-Career: $59,300
- Experienced: $87,800
Forensic Psychology Salaries by Location in Arizona
A local employer may determine an individual forensic psychologist’s starting salary based on their education, training, and experience. Yet, there is also a strong correlation between a forensic psychologist’s earning prospects and the community in which they work.
For example, in 2014, the United States Department of Labor reported that forensic psychologists working in the Tucson area earned an average annual salary of $51,950, while those practicing in Flagstaff enjoyed a significantly higher average annual salary of $72,510: